If you are a Facebook junkie who can’t go for even five minutes without checking in, then I may have found the perfect phone for you. HTC recently brought one their two Facebook-integrated phones to the US; somewhere along the way, the device formerly known as the ChaCha became the Status. You may remember that the ChaCha was the candy-bar style Android phone with full QWERTY keyboard that so impressed me at Mobile World Congress — mainly because its keyboard blew away the one on the BlackBerry Bold I was using while traveling.
the phone formerly known as “ChaCha”, shown without its AT&T logo in Barcelona
Why would someone even consider choosing a device like this over one of the other fully loaded Android phones available these days, those with glorious 4.3″ touchscreens and super-fast processors? Let’s look at what you give up by purchasing a Status. To start, you would have to downsize to a 2.6″ half-VGA (480×320) vertical touchscreen. You’d also lose some processing speed, because the Status has only got an 800 MHz processor; it doesn’t have the de facto standard 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, and it certainly isn’t one of the new Dual Core devices. So why would anyone choose this Android phone over some of the others available?
I think there are two reasons … no, make that three.
The first reason should be immediately evident when you feast your eyes upon the Status’ glorious QWERTY keyboard. If you rely upon your phone to surf the web, read eBooks, play games, and get turn-by-turn directions, then I get it; this probably isn’t the phone for you. But if you are a text or email junkie (as I am), then you will completely appreciate the nicely spaced, easy to click and lovely to use keyboard. It doesn’t hurt that the Status is a pleasure to hold: it’s a solidly built device with a comfortable size and weight; it doesn’t creak when torqued or squeezed, and I especially like the concave curve which makes the phone rest comfortably in my hand.
And yes, for all of you social butterflies … another reason to choose the Status is because of its dedicated and thus deeply integrated connection to Facebook.
Even among Gear Diary’s writers there has been some question about why HTC would add a Facebook button rather than some other social network — or why there was a need to add any button at all. Well, consider these Facebook statistics:
Those stats make for a rather compelling reason any manufacturer would do well to consider the huge number of potential purchasers among the Facebook crowd; in fact, I am surprised that more manufacturers haven’t catered to this audience — beyond adding Facebook apps pre-installed on their devices, of course.
And finally, one of the biggest reasons that I think this phone is a viable contender has to do with its price … $50 with a new contract. For all of the features that this phone packs in, I am truly impressed that the price didn’t start at $99 — or more!
So let’s take a look st the Status, and perhaps by the end of this review, you’ll know whether this phone might be a good option for you — whether you are a Facebook-fiend or not. =)
Obviously, it’s nothing new for a candy-bar phone to have a QWERTY keyboard, BlackBerry has been doing it since the beginning, and plenty of other manufacturers have done it — including Palm, Samsung, Nokia and HTC. What makes or breaks the experience is how the keys feel when you are entering text, how they are laid out, whether they have enough surface area, and whether they have good tactile feedback. As I mentioned, I was using a BlackBerry Bold when I first came across the Status, and the difference between the keying experience was like night and day. Sure, the Status is a bit wider in hand than the Bold, but the difference means a much less cramped keyboard and (for me, at least) more accurate key presses. I found that typing on the status was enjoyable, even more so than typing on my Vertu Constellation Quest. Yikes.
The Status measures about 4.5″ tall x 2.5″ wide x 0.4″ thick, and it weighs a satisfying 4.32 ounces — largely because of the inclusion of some metal in its design. It’s not overly heavy, but the Status feels solid, and that is important to me. Because of the small screen on the HTC Status, games will feel cramped, although playing most of them will still be possible. It’s certainly possible that there will be some screen resolution or compatibility issues with a few apps due to the landscape orientation of the device, but depending upon which apps you do or don’t install, this may or may not ever be an issue.
I really like the way that HTC used matte silver to form most of the front of the Flyer’s body; the milky white plastic at both the top and the bottom looks elegant, and dare I say Apple–esque. Just below the screen are the Home, Menu, Back and Search buttons; they are capacitive, and they blend in nicely. Just below the screen are two physical keys; the green button on the left pulls up contacts and your call history, and the red button on the right is for terminating calls. Alternate uses for keyboard keys are plainly labeled.
Pressing the Facebook button takes you to a window that allows the posting of status updates; pressing and holding the button allows you to check-in to Facebook Places, which is the FB equivalent of foursquare. I wish that the long-press could be re-programmed to another FB feature — maybe the news feed from your Home page or something else. But at least the FB button does have some other uses. When viewing webpages the Facebook button will flash and glow, links can be shared on your wall or on a friend’s simply by pressing the button – no cutting or pasting necessary. The Facebook button will also flash and glow when looking at sharable music (through the HTC Music app), videos or photos; again, pressing it will allow you to post to your wall or to a friend’s.
Perhaps the main missing feature — since there is already an illuminated Facebook button with such deep integration — is a notification system through the button when FB events occur. If the button would flash and glow when someone sent me a message, posted on my wall, or replied to something I had said, and then when pressed immediately take me to the event (or a list of events that I could scroll through, if it had been a while since I checked in), I would call the Facebook implementation just about perfect. As it is, the Facebook implementation is still very good.
Battery: 1250 mAh
Talk time: Up to 6.5 hours
Standby time: Up to 26.6 days
Size: 4.49 x 2.54 x 0.42 Inches
Weight: 4.32 Ounces
Internal memory storage: Up to 512 MB (with 120 MB user accessible memory)
Expandable memory storage: Up to 32 GB
Memory format: microSD(TM)
Memory Card Included: 2 GB microSD(TM) pre-installed
Wireless Technology: GSM/GPRS/EDGEGSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/900 MHz); 3G – UMTS/HSDPA850/1900 MHz, HSDPA 7.2 Mbps; EDGE high speed data network
BLUETOOTH® technology: 3.0
FOTA capable – upgrade Firmware Over the Air
Operating System: Android 2.3.3 [or Gingerbread, for those of you who are keeping track]
Display size: 2.6 inches
Resolution (pixels): 480 x 320
Keyboards: Touchscreen and QWERTY with predictive text for fast typing and Backlit Keys
Cameras: Rear-facing 5.0 MP camera with autofocus and LED flash, and Zoom2X; Live video capture and playback:2.4 hours capture and 7.3 hours playback time; Front-facing Camera
The back of the Status reminds me very much of the HTC Flyer, being composed of both milky white plastic and matte silver metal; as with the flyer, you do have the option of removing the bottom portion in order to access the same card holder and the microSD slot.
The bottom battery door is rather thin plastic, and it is a bear to remove; since it will seldom need removing — assuming you place a large enough microSD card inside and you aren’t one who often switches SIM cards — this shouldn’t be an issue.
The rear facing camera is 5 megapixels and has an LED flash. As with most of the HTC phones I’ve tried lately, it’s a pretty good substitute for those times when you don’t want to bring your digital camera along.
Call quality on the Status is good — about on par with any other mobile phone. Assuming that you are in an area with good AT&T coverage, you should have no garbling issues. The speakerphone is decent, but not great; no surprise there.
Dan and I spent some time with the HTC Status when I was in New Jersey recently …
If you use the Status as your primary device for surfing, phone calls, playing games, GPS functions, and all of the other things that we commonly use our phones for anymore, the 1250 mAh battery may not be enough to make it through an entire day. With that said, because of its smaller screen and obvious text-entry bias, I think that the ideal user for the Status is a person (like me) who also has a connected tablet that they usually carry; in other words, a person who needs a phone that is great for texting, answering e-mail, and the occasional web look up. The battery life on the status, when it is used this way, is phenomenal. You don’t have to be a Facebook junkie to love this phone, but the Status’ excellent integration with that social network will definitely go a long way with those who are.
The HTC Status is available from AT&T. The Status requires a minimum data service starting at $15/month.
MSRP: $49.99 with a two-year contract (a great price!); $399.99 contract-free (still not a bad price)
What I Like: Excellent keyboard making this a fantastic texting and emailing device; excellent Facebook integration; the Status has a solid build and feels like a much more expensive phone; the touch-screen coupled with the keyboard makes for a very easy navigation and text entry experience
What Needs Improvement: It would be nice to be able to remap the Status’ Facebook button, or at least choose what happens when the button is pressed and held; It would be nice if the button would blink when new notifications arrive
Speck Products was kind enough to send us two Status cases, one in BatWing Black and one in PlumPeacock Purple. These cases retail for $34.99, and they will look fab while protecting your Status. If you would like to win one, read on!
Our award-winning CandyShell is now available for HTC Status! This case has a thin, hard-shell coating with soft rubbery interior lining, bezel, and button covers. No other slick, one-piece design offers you the protection of both a hard shell and rubbery case, making CandyShell the tastiest and most functional HTC Status case around.
How to win a Speck CandyShell Case:
• 1. Leave a comment on the bottom of this post saying the reason why you purchased your HTC Status, or why you plan on buying one. Specify whether you would like the BatWing or PlumPeacock case. If you don’t specify, we will just assume that you are commenting on the review and not entering the giveaway. =)
The small print: This contest is open to our US readers only. We will close the contest at 11:59 PM CT on Friday, August 12, 2011. I will contact the winner on August 13 through the email tied to the winner’s registered Gear Diary account. Please add [email protected] to your whitelist, because if you don’t respond, we’ll have to chose another winner.